Well folks, here it is.
The grand Grounds Tour of the new Reformation Acres homestead you’ve all been asking for.
It’s a long post and I hope I’ve made everything clear to visualize and understand as I show you the gardens, orchards, pastures, and barn.
What you won’t perceive on this tour are the chirping birds, buzzing of late summer insects, clopping of horses hooves down the road, pounding of the hammer as my husband works on the chicken tractor, clanging of Holly’s bell, or the obnoxious midday calling of guinea and crowing of the rooster. All facets of our new life here that I’m thoroughly enjoying!
~The Kitchen Garden, which is one of several, is about 3 times as big as our last garden. I’m thinking at this point maybe to use it for the food I plan to grow and prepare fresh throughout the summer as it’s probably nearest the kitchen. As a note, I do believe it has lain nearly 100% fallow throughout this season with the exception of some potatoes it looks like were overlooked last harvest. Also in the far right corner is a small patch or rhubarb that will probably come out. All you rhubarb lovers out there, don’t hate me… it’s just not something we care for too much.
~Considering the way the asparagus beetles devoured the baby plants I was trying to nurture, I’m going to assume these have been sprayed because I see absolutely no evidence of infestation. Hopefully, they’ll never find them because I just stand there and stare at the patch and imagine the impossibility of hand-picking beetles and squishing larvae.
~The blackberries are fruiting right now and are amazing (coming from someone who has never had a blackberry before now in her life). The base is covered with black fabric, as are all the berries, which if memory serves does not foster the right environment for a vibrant soil food web. I’ll have to consult my orchard book and see what my mulching options are for brambles. I do believe that wood chips would be warranted here.
~The concord grapes, by all accounts, are just beginning to be ripe. I harvested 14 pounds today… the tip of the iceberg. Guess I’m seeing some low-sugar jams or jellies in my future. I thought I’d try a healthy grape gelatin recipe I saw and juice some for that. Or maybe learn how to make kombucha? I’m learning the trouble with all this fruit we’re being blessed with is all of the sugar that recipes are calling for to preserve them. I don’t mind some sugar, but over the last few years we’ve significantly scaled back on our sugar consumption so when we do get it I notice the ill effects in how everyone feels and behaves (myself in particular).
~See the clothesline?? That, my friends, excites me. Plenty of room for a days washing! No more managing multiple loads throughout the day, draping the deck railings with jeans, and in full sunshine to boot!
~Kitchen Garden facing south.
~I imagine that is a whole row of black raspberries, that is. There is one cane bearing right now. The rest are pretty shabby looking. Perhaps they’re very young?
~The strawberries don’t look so hot either, but neither did mine before we left (thank you chickens.)
~I noticed some butternut squash growing in the garden area, but can’t tell if there is an actual planting through all the weeds. We were discussing last night the possibility of extending the strawberries the whole length of the garden and managing the patch much like our friend Gina at Home Joys does. Perhaps we’ll end up transplanting all of the raspberries over to this area and keep it all berries.
~The end of the property line is around the taller deciduous tree beyond the small white pines you see just right of center. You can kind of see where the pasture is a bit taller than the mown area of the Amish schoolhouse.
~The property is sort of L-shaped. Sometime in the last decade the mown portion on the right was sold and now there is an Amish schoolhouse down on that corner. Last winter, the previous owner gave permission and they tried to dig in a skating pond down in the lower pasture, but apparently no matter how deep they dug, they couldn’t get past the topsoil. They’re coming back this week to fill it in since the area won’t hold water, but for me the take away message is that we’re probably leaching topsoil and nutrients downhill and will have to address that in the future.
~The back pasture doesn’t have permanent fencing except for along the top so for now it will just be cattle running through with polyrope paddocking. I’m not sure how much acreage both of these pastures encompass, but I believe we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 acres total pasture.
~From the lower corner facing east.
~From the same corner facing up to the back of the house.
~This is above the back pasture. The overgrown with ragweed compost heap on the right is up against the fencing. The golden raspberries in front of it make little sense to me… you can hardly access the pile. The raspberries on the left take up a portion of the main garden and serve only as a snacking crop for a family of our size. Just another reason why it would make sense to move them over with the rest of the berries and perennial fruits. In his book, The Holistic Orchard, Michael Phillips says that, “Red raspberries and blackberries can asymptomatically (showing no outward sign themselves) carry viruses that severely affect black raspberries. Nurseries typically recommend that these bramble types be kept 100 feet apart, whether cultivated or wild. These viruses are spread by aphids and windblown pollen. Black raspberries will do fine at first but can quickly decline after a mere three to five years,” so I could see the black raspberry patch being transplanted or removed anyway.
~Golden raspberries, overgrown compost, back pasture.~This is the side of the main garden closest to the house. Right now I’m thinking these will be the pantry crops, such as canning tomatoes, sweet corn, squashes, etc… that would go into the winter larder. Maybe I should call it the Pantry Garden… There were a few plants, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumber, some type of decorative gourd growing amongst the weeds along with a volunteer sunflower and a crop of oats throughout this garden.
With these areas being so overgrown with weeds, my favorite hoe broken, and my back not up to the task, the plan is to run the broiler chicks and pigs over these areas the next few weeks and see if they won’t do the job for me in exchange for the tasty bugs, seeds, and greens found in the areas. And that’s to say nothing of what fertility inputs they’ll make.
~A view from the backside of the main garden… facing west and towards the house.
~The 30’x100′ hoophouse/greenhouse you see on the right is ours and intimidates me every time I look at it. I already feel daunted by the level of work it will take to maintain the Kitchen and Pantry Gardens, so to throw the prospect of learning how to garden in the cooler seasons is overwhelming right now. Since I am due to have a baby in January and will be cherishing each and every newborn moment next late winter/early spring, it’s yet to be determined how much actual use I’ll get out of it. Other determining factors would be whether the budget will allow for plastic covering and my husband’s willingness to lend a hand. He’s not much of a gardener (animal husbandry is his forte) but he might still have enough initial enthusiasm remaining after the move to help out with some gardening.
~In front of the main/pantry garden is an orchard area. The plums will be bearing in the next month or so. I guess there were a ton lost to June drop and I see that many have brown rot which looks a lot like they were sprinkled with yeast.
~I’m not sure of the apple varieties. Supposedly one is a Honeycrisp. I forget the other and don’t know which is which.
~The cherries I’m told have yet to bear a crop.
~The line of dirt is from where the electric was put in so orchard expansion will need to be managed to accommodate that, but we’re already talking about where the peach, plum, and more apple trees are going to go. First though, there is a redbud and silver maple to the south between the orchard and pasture that will need to come out. It makes little sense to put especially a tall tree like a silver maple to the south of an orchard.
~From the south, below the back pasture, facing up to the orchard.
~This area is between the greenhouse and the house. The red grapes on the arbor are tagged Swenson grapes, but I don’t know what the green grapes are except they are seeded, supposedly taste much like a concord, and are ready now.
~I also don’t know what type of berry brambles those are… probably raspberries if I had to guess.
~Behind that is an elderberry bush which gave me several gallon bags of elderberries in the freezer to make syrup with one of these days. There are also wild elderberry and berries along the western side of the property line along the woods.
~You can’t really discern it, but there is also a tiny blueberry bush somewhere in that mess too.
~On the north side of the home is the bank barn as well as two pastured areas.
~This is the north side of the home, but facing east. The front pasture is connected to the back pasture with temporary fencing and is FULL of beautiful red clover. This is where we have been blessed with the most glorious sunrises and views. I pray that my sense of awe and wonder at the sights I’m seeing never fades or dulls as long as we are privileged to live here!
~The greenhouse you see will NOT be staying. The previous owner has asked that we keep it here for him and he’ll come get it next year. Honestly, I can’t wait because it blocks my view of the sky from the living room and I can’t see myself putting up a similar structure in the future. I’ll use the land for something much less high profile!
~The front pasture paddock farthest from the driveway (as are the next couple photos). This is the pasture that is directly behind the barn and is joined to the back by the side pasture.
~This is one of my favorite features of the homestead. The type of feature that a gal who would go to look at a home for sale and totally get the bucket of pig slop sitting on the front porch would appreciate. This little structure, my friends if for hoisting up a carcass during the butchering process… say instead of borrowing your uncle’s tractor and bucket… How clever is that??! I know there are many homesteaders raising their own meat, but when it comes to larger livestock not butchering their own. Since we do, I feel like this is so perfect for us!
~This is the front pasture #1 from the driveway, with the #2 being behind it, and in the distance you can see the neighbors horses (which the children love having so close by!)
And finally, here are some miscellaneous photos…
The LONG driveway…
~Along the driveway and in front of the house is this row of trees that doesn’t make sense to me either. There is a redbud, ornamental pear, this crooked little apple tree, and a tiny little crabapple that won’t be nearly as lovely as the one I’m used to enjoying.
So while our new home is abounding in infrastructure to get us started, I still see plenty of areas that we can be reforming and trying to utilize in our attempts to grow food in a natural and God-glorifying way.
I hope you enjoyed the grand tour of our new homestead! If you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to speak up!